You’d never been more ready for Christmas break in your entire life than you were right now. Sitting in a lopsided desk in the middle of chemistry class, it had only been twelve minutes of boredom and daydreaming while the teacher spewed words of nonsense, but it felt like years already. You were tired of being stressed out with piles and piles of homework that didn’t really help you in the long run anyways and you could cry on command from the aches in pains in your limbs that came with hours of extra curricular activities. All you really wanted to do was go home to your boyfriend and maybe slurp down a few smoothies with him.
It had been about a week since Ethan had his wisdom teeth removed -which you hated that you did not make it to the appointment with him, not because you wanted to hold his hand and coddle him, but because you wanted to laugh at him when he came to -and only one day since the video was uploaded.
Wednesdays were the hardest.
After the class broke into groups for lab work, the teacher sat idly by her desk, slipping on her glasses and flipping through a text book. Every once in awhile she’d speak up from her spot in the corner and tell the rowdy group of students to quiet down and focus on filling their beakers.
You giggled as your best friend, Brynn, scribbled a made up answer on the assignment sheet you shared. She swore about the teacher and how she thought her and Mr. Schmidt were most likely having an affair. She complimented your makeup, how it looked particularly stunning with your outfit. You sent her the best smile you could muster when she made a joke about how you should break up with Ethan so that she could date you instead.
You knew her constant stream of talking was all just to distract you from hearing the familiar sound of a drugged up voice freestyling about boobs and asking a nurse if she’d ever heard of a savage. Even though the room was filled with chatter, you could hear that voice anywhere and under any circumstance. You couldn’t help but shoot glances toward the table across from you where some of your classmates were laughing at the video.
Nothing made you more proud than knowing and seeing people watch Grayson and Ethan’s videos. All they wanted was to make people laugh and damn, they did it well. On any given day they had you rolling with laughter until you’d almost pee your pants. But there was something about it happening at school that made your stomach twist. There was a reason the twins left and that was the sad truth of it.
“Are you guys even together right now?” A deep voice echoed. Chet always had a problem with Ethan and neither him or you could figure out why. There was never any rhyme or reason to the distaste people showed towards Ethan. “I can never tell, you break up every other day,” he laughed.
You glanced over at him, then quickly looked down, letting out an uncomfortable chuckle. You and Ethan had your fair share of breakups, but nobody needed to know why, it was a sensitive issue with you and you didn’t think it was fair that someone who didn’t know you or anything about your relationship could so bluntly bring it up in conversation. In fact, this feeling -the feeling Ethan knew you only felt because of him -was the root of all your problems.
“Yeah they are,” Brynn chimed in, speaking so you wouldn’t have to. “They’re goals.”
She quickly turned towards the microscope again, adjusting the lens. You turned around as well, tracing your name over and over again on the assignment sheet with the tip of your pencil. Hopefully, he’d leave it at that, but you could almost physically feel his eyes bearing into your back.
His lab partner spoke up, not caring that their beaker was boiling over the bunsen burner. “When you break up next week,” he stopped to laugh, Chet joining in and slapping him on the shoulder. “I’ll take you out, show you what you’re missing? Isn’t Ethan like, gone all the time? That probably sucks.”
You swallowed the lump that was starting to form in your throat. Ethan was gone a lot and it was hard and yeah, it sucked. It was everything you feared it would be, but Ethan was worth every tear, every argument, and every lonely night wrapped up in one of his sweatshirts. The happiness he brought to your life was so much bigger than any negative comment or doubt in your mind.
“Aye, you don’t want the Dolan’s sloppy seconds, bro.” Chet cringed. He bit his lip while you ran a hand through your hair, pretending you were carefully concentrating on the homework. You could cry if you let yourself. “What’s wrong? Don’t feel like talking to us?”
“No, as a matter of fact, she doesn’t.” Brynn turned towards them after slapping her hand on the lab table. “You’re a bunch of losers. Just leave her alone, for fuck’s sake!”
Brynn never batted an eye when it came to sticking up for you. You were nothing but there for her when her parents got a divorce, letting her stay at your house anytime the fighting became too much for her to bear. You’d mentioned to her that at least she was a pretty crier, with rosy cheeks and a soft crinkle in her nose, she swore you’d be best friends forever. She saw you for you and not as the girl dating Ethan Dolan.
“But,” Chet’s lip quivered, pretending he was offended. “I thought she liked losers.”
Your eyes stung. Ethan was anything but a loser. In fact, you’d never seen a bigger loser than the one standing in front of you. Because losers didn’t make the world smile or make you pancakes in the morning because it’s the only thing they knew how to cook or walk you home from their football game or tell you you look beautiful after you’d been crying. No, losers, were the people who talked a whole lot of nothing about people they didn’t know.
“I’m just tired,” you finally spoke, quietly. And you were. Sick and tired of going through something like this every week. You dreaded the feeling of isolation.
You didn’t miss his rude remark referring to Ethan and as much as you wanted to wrangle his neck, you tried your best to avoid confrontation. You remembered Ethan and how he had every reason to fight back, but he never did. He always held his head high when all he really wanted was to dig a grave and lie in it. You could almost hear his voice telling you to be brave before he’d lay a kiss to your forehead.
He had grace.
When the bell rang you quickly gathered up your things with a sigh of relief, acknowledging the look on your best friend’s face, ‘sorry’ written all over it. Walking out the door, you felt a couple fingers graze your arm and a soft, mousy voice in your ear. “Can you give me Grayson’s number, please?”
“Sorry,” you whispered, tearing away from her, only focused on getting the hell out of that room. She replied with some choice words, but they were only a faint sound in the distance as you darted for the restrooms.
Closing yourself in a stall, you pulled your phone from your pocket with a shaky hand, texting the only person you craved in that moment. You knew he was most likely still sleeping, but it didn’t matter when he saw it, all that mattered was that he would. That gave you enough reassurance.
A tear slipped from your bottom lashes, the way a dew drop would off a blade of grass in the morning. It planted itself on your phone screen while the pads of your thumb swiped across, hitting letters and creating words before you could process them.
You: I hate school without you. I need you.
You slid down the wall in the stall, breathing heavy. You knew you were long late for math class, but you couldn’t bring yourself to go. You’d sit here all day, but you also knew the longer you were in hiding, the more people grew suspicious when you reappeared, which only made them talk more.
You swiped a finger under your eye, the pit in your stomach growing more and more empty. Leaning your head backs against the cold, white washed wall, your mind raced to memories of Ethan in the cafeteria. Your favorite part about school was entering the room, clutching your tray in both hands, and sitting next to your boyfriend who’d greet you by sliding his hand around to your lower back and a kiss to your temple. Ethan would pick the pears off your plate knowing you never finished them and you’d laugh when he’d throw random bits of food at Grayson.
The bullying and name calling was always there, but it was easier when Ethan was around. You’d casually hang around his locker in between classes, never completely oblivious to words like “fag” and “pussy” in the background. You’d wanted to fight back and stand up for the boy who made your heart do backflips in your chest, but he’d light grab your wrist and shake his head.
“Ignore it,” he’d say and with him, you could. His strength made you strong.
Without him, it got harder and harder to simply ignore.
The ding and vibrate of your phone pulled you from your thoughts, the letter ‘E’ bold and capitalized on the screen. His text made you exhale a breath you hadn’t realized you were holding.
E: Come over.
You never ditched school, you were a good student. Any time you even considered skipping, Ethan figuratively slapped some sense into you. School was important, bullies weren’t.
Luckily, you managed to get your backpack and jacket out of your locker without being seen before you hopped in your car and pulled out of the parking lot. Parking your car in his driveway, you walked into the house without knocking, darting up the stairs two at a time.
Creaking the door open, your eyes met his, whiskey colored and full of light. Instantly you were consumed by the musk of his cologne in his room. One of your favorite smells.
“Hi,” he said, a small frown tugged at the corners of his lips when he saw you coming towards him after pulling yourself out of your coat sleeves, tossing it on the floor next to his mile high pile of shoes. He scooted over in his bed and you easily accepted your spot next to him, lulling his arm around you.
His lips lingered on your forehead as you spoke into his chest, “hi.”
Ethan pulled you tighter to him, planting as many gentle kisses to your face as he could reach while your fingers clutched to his t-shirt. He basked in the smell of you, vanilla with a hint of fruit. Grapefruit maybe? He noticed a tear slink down you cheek and he carefully caught with the puck of his lips, kissing it away.
Ethan wouldn’t mind holding you like this all damn day if he had to if that’s what you wanted. But he also knew you had a tendency to let it all sit inside of you, bubbling and boiling until it ate you from the inside out. He didn’t like to pry, but he didn’t like to let you be alone.
Your eyes flicked upwards, looking at him. The sadness buried in them pulled his eyebrows together with worry, curiosity getting the better of him.
“What happened?” He asked, gingerly grazing your cheek with his thumb.
You took a breath, deciding what details to share, but how? How could you bear to tell him people were laughing at his video and you weren’t sure if it was with him or at him. That Chet called him a loser. That complete strangers could make you feel like less of a person because you were dating him. How could you say any of this without breaking his heart, already vulnerable to these circumstances.
Instead you cried, like really, full heartedly cried because you felt like there wasn’t anything else you could do.
Ethan’s stomach hurt watching your face squish up, thick tears flooding the rims of your eyelids. “Please don’t cry, Giggles.”
You didn’t want to cry. You wanted to laugh it off, his favorite sound in the world, and pretend like everything was okay. Truth be told, it wasn’t okay. People had no right to be so cruel to a boy who was nothing but joy. You cried for you, and you cried for him.
“I’m sorry,” you whispered, bring your own sleeve to your face.
“Shhhhh, no no,” Ethan soothed, pulling your head to him so you could bury yourself in his chest, his shirt and mattress soaking up tear after tear that fell from you. “You have nothing to say sorry for. God, I’m–”
“Don’t say it.” You pulled away slightly, shaking your head. “Don’t apologize either, Ethan. We’ve been over this.”
He sighed, pinching the bridge of his nose with his thumb and index finger. Yeah, you and Ethan had spent an entire Saturday night talking it over and sharing your feelings to one another over a tub of ice cream and some skittles. Promising not to fight about it anymore or let it be another break up in the books. You’d let strangers’ words split you up before and you two were desperate to never let it happen again.
“I try not to let it get to me, I really do. It’s just,” you sighed when he looked at you, sadness and understanding in his eyes. He intertwined your fingers with his. “It’s just so hard without you there. It makes me feel like they won somehow.”
He nodded. “But you know we had to leave. We couldn’t take it anymore.”
“I know, I know, and God Ethan I’m so proud of you. I really am. I just wish things were different. I wish people saw what I saw,” you told him, staring into him like he was some sort of angel. To you, he was.
Ethan let your words sink in, the warmth of your body soothing him like it always did. He understood where you were coming from, but he needed you to understand something, something he figured out on his own the hard way.
“Thank you,” he started. “You always find the best in me and fuck if it isn’t one of the best things about you, but here’s the thing. My parents and Grayson and Cameron… the fans. Trust me, they see what you see, baby. The people who actually matter, they see it. So please, just don’t worry about assholes at school because I don’t anymore. I could care less what they have to say.”
“You’re right,” you say, looking down at your hands clinging to his. “It’s just hard sometimes.”
“I know,” he whispered, a smug look taking over his face. “But my girl is brave, so I’m not worried about it.”
You giggled and Ethan’s heart flooded from relief. To him, your smile could light up an entire room. He absolutely hated seeing you cry, so if even just for a second he could lift the corners of your mouth with a dumb joke or sarcastic comment, he would leap at the opportunity. Hell, he’d jump off a building into a pit of sharks if you told him to.
Dragging your lips to his, mouths wet from lingering tears, you kissed him gently and slowly. The butterflies coming alive in your stomach making you release him with a smile and he shot one back at you. Both of you were happy that even after years and years together, you could still make the other feel as giddy you were when he kissed you in the slide at recess in sixth grade.
“You know I love you, right?” He pecked your lips again, drunk off the taste. You knew. It was in the way he looked at you and the way he kissed you goodnight and the way he made you laugh when he tickled you even though you hated to be tickled, and he knew that.
“Mhmm,” you nodded, wrapping your arms around his neck, bringing your noses just centimeters away from each other. “I love you too, E.”
He smirked, looping his hands around your back. He’d never get tired of hearing you say that. He closed the space between you, tracing your lips with his own, revealing in how perfectly they fit together. Like puzzle pieces. His eyes fluttered closed when you hummed into his mouth before effortlessly flipping you fully on top of him. Your legs rested in a way to give his hips a hug.
You tilted up you head, licking your lips and looking into him with bedroom eyes that could kill. “You know what else I love?”
“What’s that?” He hummed, gliding his hands over the curve of your hips, pushing you down into him.
There was a pause before a wide smile stretched across your mouth and your hands found their way to either side of his face.
“Your chubby cheeks,” you exclaimed laughing and pinching them between your fingers.
“Stop it!” Ethan laughed along with you, grabbing each of your wrists to pull himself from your grasp. “They’re still healing. They look a lot better than they did at first, alright?”
“But I think you look so cute with a fat face!” You continued to giggle. The hold he had on you becoming a game as you struggled to get him to let go. He wouldn’t budge, and secretly you didn’t want him to. Playful Ethan was the best Ethan and it was just what you needed after the morning you had. A good laugh.
And who was better equipped to provide a hard, belly laugh that made your eyes water and your abs hurt than your boyfriend, Ethan? Not anyone, and especially not some loser named Chet.